1. Looking Back: For Special Services

    By Devin Zydel on 2005-04-25

    In September of 1982 that John Gardner’s second James Bond 007 novel, For Special Services, was published. Continuing on after his previous James Bond novel Licence Renewed, this novel has today become one of his most popular Bond adventures. CBn looks back at this second of ultimately 16 novels in total written by Gardner in the 80’s and 90’s. Included are trivia notes about the book and CBn forum fan reactions.

    For Special Services UK first edition

    UK first edition

    As with the first continuation James Bond novel, Licence Renewed, I must acknowledge grateful thanks to the literary copyright holders – Glidrose Productions – for inviting me to follow in Ian Fleming’s footsteps, and attempt to bring Mr. Bond into the 1980s. In particular, my personal thanks to Dennis Joss, Peter Janson-Smith, and John Parkinson, for their patience and trust.

    Great acknowledgments must also go to Peter Israel, of the Putnam Publishing Group, and my personal manager, Desmond Elliott, both of whom have given me valuable assistance and support: as have Tom Maschler, Mary Banks and, particularly, Tony Colwell, who spotted a character flaw and brilliantly suggested a major plot change. I would also like to express my personal gratitude to all members of Saab (GB) Ltd, and Saab-Scania in Sweden, for the amount of time, trouble, patience and enthusiasm they have put into proving that the James Bond Saab really does exist. In particular, I must mention – among a host of others – John Smerdon, Steve Andresier, Philip Hall, John Edwards, Ian Adcock, Peter Seltzer, and Hans Thornquist.

    When going through the acknowledgments for Licence Renewed, I realised I had omitted a most important name – the knowledgeable man who privately researched a short list of motorcars, which eventually led to my putting Mr Bond into a Saab: Tony Snare.

    Ian Fleming, being the great craftsman he was, always attempted – with some licence, granted to all writers of fiction – to get the nuts and bolts correct. I have tried to do the same thing, with one exception. While the NORAD Command Headquarters exists – in the Cheyenne Mountains, Colorado – I found it impossible to get any accurate description of the way into this incredible defence base. It has, therefore, been necessary for some invention here. All the space satellites mentioned do exist, and it is my understanding that the race for a Particle Beam Weapon is going on at this moment.

    The only exception, among the satellites, is the important one which I have designated the Space Wolf. However, I am firmly assured that the capability of these weapons does exist and that they are real, even though, at the time of writing, no country will admit to any being in orbit.

    1982 – John Gardner


    • The Saab’s famous nickname, The Silver Beast, first appears in this 007 novel. It’s Gardner’s recollection that his son came up with the name.
    • The opening chapter of For Special Services first appeared as a “sneak preview” in the U.S. paperback edition of Licence Renewed.
    • The book title comes from a gift Fleming received from William Donovan. At Donovan’s request Fleming had written a lengthy memorandum describing the structure of a secret service operation. This became part of the OSS charter, which later became the American CIA. In appreciation, Donovan gave Fleming a .38 Police Positive Colt revolver inscribed “For Special Services.”

    Release Timeline

    • 1982: 1st British Jonathan Cape Hardback Edition
    • 1982: 1st American Richard Marek Hardback Edition
    • 1982: 1st British Coronet Paperback
    • 1982: 1st American G.K. Hall Large Print Hardback Edition
    • 1983: 1st American Berkley Paperback Edition
    • 1987: 2nd American Charter Paperback Edition
    • 2004: 1st British Coronet Omnibus Paperback Edition

    Relationship to the film series

      For Special Services German paperback

      German paperback

    • For Special Services – Bond and heroine Cedar Leiter are trapped in a precariously balanced elevator in a Washington D.C. hotel.
    • A View to a Kill (1985) – Bond and heroine Stacey Sutton are trapped in a precariously balanced elevator in San Francisco’s City Hall.
    • For Special Services – Villain Markus Bismaquer plots with crime syndicate SPECTER to gain control of a top secret star wars-like space-based satellite weapon known as Space Wolf.
    • GoldenEye (1995) – Villain Alec Trevelyn plots with crime syndicate JANUS to gain control of a top secret star wars-like space-based satellite weapon known as GoldenEye.
    • For Special Services – In a surprise twist at the end, the mastermind and true villain of the book is revealed to be the “victimized” Nena Bismaquer who seeks to avenge the death of her father. Having fallen in love with her while protecting her, Bond now kills her in cold blood in her isolated Everglades castle lair.
    • The World Is Not Enough (1999) – In a surprise twist at the end, the mastermind and true villain of the film is revealed to be the “victimized” Electra King who seeks to avenge the death of her mother. Having fallen in love with her while protecting her, Bond now kills her in cold blood in her isolated Istanbul castle lair.

    Forum Reviews

    For Special Services is the pick of the bunch. It’s probably Gardner’s best novel as well in my opinion. Highly entertaining stuff.

    CBn Forum member 1q2w3e4r

    For Special Services. Top twist. Basic plot’s got heavy Goldfinger overtones, the drugged ice cream etc. Bit gimmicky with the return of SPECTRE and Leiter’s daughter, but suitably nasty bit with the ants on the bed. A traitor. Great. Long sequences in a hotel room. Er…great.

    CBn Forum member Jim

    For Special Services UK paperback

    UK paperback

    The book For Special Services is the best over all Gardner Bond novel. From the begining to the end an excellent, thrilling Bond novel. Gardner dealt with the return of SPECTRE, and Blofeld in a very unique way, and forces Bond to deal with emotions and issue that have been left hanging since You Only Live Twice. The revenge motive on the part of both Bond and Blofeld made the tension more so.

    CBn Forum member kevrichardson

    Either For Special Services or Icebreaker would make great Bond films.

    CBn Forum member tdalton

    I really like For Special Services. I love the fact that the villain has recreated Tara (the house from Gone With The Wind) out in the middle of the Texas desert with a full car racetrack set up for fun and games. Now that’s just strange enough to be in Bond story! I miss outrageous lairs like this — lairs that grow out of the villain’s twisted mind.

    CBn Forum member zencat

    The Looking Back at John Gardner Series:

    Related Articles: